The answers to the question, “What is Institutional Research?” (or IR as it is more affectionately known), are as diverse as each college and university. The roles and responsibilities of Institutional Research differ for every institution, depending on the needs of the institution.
Broadly, institutional research is “research conducted within an institution of higher education to provide information which supports institutional planning, policy formation and decision making”. Research activities include the collection, analysis and interpretation of institutional data to promote institutional effectiveness in all areas of the institution.
At The Citadel, the Office of Institutional Research has the following responsibilities:
- Serving as a comprehensive source of information about The Citadel
- Providing data for institutional decision making and to support the College’s strategic planning, assessment and accreditation processes
- Collecting, analyzing and submitting state, federal, and other governing body academic reporting
- Providing data to external audiences for Citadel inclusion in college guides, salary studies and other information requests
- Developing and analyzing internal surveys of faculty, staff, students and alumni as well as the Institution’s course evaluations of instruction
- Maintaining an informative web site with College data
- Maintaining memberships in advisory committees at both the state and institution level as well as professional memberships
Another question often asked is “What is the difference between frozen data (aka census data) and live data (aka transactional data)?
Each semester, IR takes a snapshot of data from Banner (the institution’s transactional database) at the same point in time. These data sets are referred to as frozen data and become the official data of the institution. This process follows best practices in higher education and is commonplace for IR offices. Freezing data ensures that it is captured consistently, with the same definitions and at the same time each semester. Unlike live data in Banner, frozen data does not change. This allows for consistent comparison among semesters, academic years, schools, etc. Certain federal and state agencies, such as IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) and CHE (Commission on Higher Education), require institutions to report using frozen data. Below is a table of examples of the differences between frozen and live data.
Differences Between Frozen Data and Live Data
|Official Census Data of the College||Transactional Data|
|Strategic Reporting||Operational Reporting|
|Ability to Analyze Trends (Static Information)||Continuously Changing Information|
|Used for Official Reporting||Not Used for Official Reporting|
|Common Uses:||Common Uses:|
|IPEDS, Common Data Set,||Major/Minor Reports, Admissions|
|Accreditation Reports, Trend Reporting,||Reporting, Financial/Accounts|
|External Publishing Surveys,||Receivable Reports, Current|
|Assessment Reports, etc.||Course Enrollments, etc.|